Last month, Rolling Stone released an article “A Rape on Campus: A brutal assault and struggle for justice at UVA.” It was about a violent rape that occurred on a college campus fraternity in 2012. Due to the touchy nature of the subject, the victim Jackie, asked the writer of the story, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, to refrain from speaking with her attackers and to keep names private. When the story was published, it made worldwide headlines and put the fraternity and campus into question.
Weeks went by, and now the tables have turned. Issues with the campus and fraternity rape have died down, and something bigger has come into questioning. Since Erdely did not interview or speak to the accused men, she did not get the two sides that every story has. Pieces of the puzzle are missing, and now the whole story is being scrutinized and is getting extreme backlash.
Rolling Stone has recently retracted their article and some of the information in it based on new found evidence and interviews that discredit Jackie and her story she told Erdely.
“In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story,” said Will Dana, the Managing Editor for Rolling Stone.
The Washington posted a story stating key pieces in Jackie’s story are false or confused. The fraternity is denying ever holding a party where the rape occurred, among other facts that are turning out to be false.
What this story brings up is something journalists face every day. Credibility, fact checking, and reliable sources. When Jackie asked that the men who assaulter not be contacted, Erdely chose to honor this request to show respect. But in doing so, she failed to get both sides to the story. What do you think the reported should have done? Should she have gone against Jackie’s wishes and gotten the other side of the story? Is it more important to get true and credible sources than it is to respect a victim? How do we as journalists, write about touchy subjects like this?